Psychobiotics are specific strains of probiotics that can improve mental health by modifying gut microbiome and thereby improving the connectivity and communication between your digestive system and your brain. 

We have over 1,000 different species of bacteria living in our digestive system, aka our gut.   Collectively these bacteria, along with other pathogens like viruses, yeasts and parasites are known as our gut microbiome.   

The various species of bacteria contribute individually and collectively to our health and wellbeing.   For example, some bacteria strains directly influence bowel motility, make neurotransmitters like serotonin and protect against opportunistic pathogens that also reside in our gut and can contribute to poor health.   Our microbiome is also responsible for the structural integrity of the gut mucosal barrier and regulates our immune system. 

Research has demonstrated that the microbiome communicates with the brain through the gut-brain axis.  Any microbiome imbalance, known as dysbiosis, can contribute to mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression (1).   

Recent research is showing how specific probiotics strains can directly improve gut-brain connectivity and communication thereby improving mental health conditions.

Research also shows us that people who have digestive disorders are more likely to have anxiety, and those with anxiety have higher rates of gastrointestinal disease(2,3).

Studies also show that when digestive disorders improve, anxiety and mood also improve (4,5).

Psychobiotics have been show to:

  • Stimulate the vagus nerve to help promote rest 
  • Increase neurotransmitters production including GABA and serotonin
  • Reduces stress hormones including cortisol
  • Reduce inflammation  –  an underlying factors in mental health conditions 
  • Increase  brain-derived neurotrophic factor – a protein which protects the brain.  Low levels are associated with a higher risk of mental health conditions.
  • Crowd out opportunistic bacteria
  • Increase absorption of vitamins and minerals 

Best of all, there are no negative side effects of taking psychobiotics, only positive benefits for your mental health and your digestive health and some can be taken alongside pharmaceutical medication to enhance their benefits.

A meta-analysis of research involving various Lactrobacillis probiotic strains (6) concluded the strains had: 

  • Anxiety-modulating properties
  • Increased serotonin production   
  • Reduced IBS symptoms

Furthermore, one study reviewed looked at how Lactobacillus casei improved the effectiveness of SSRI medications and reduced the side effects of the medication including weight gain(6).

The probiotic strains in the meta-analysis included Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus fermentum, Lactobacillus johnsonii, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus gasseri. 

Other positive research in this area has been undertaken on Bifidobacterium and Bacteroides probiotic strains.   

While research is ongoing products including these researched strains of psychobiotics are now available by practitioner prescription.  

Determining which product is right for you involves assessing your current gut health status, nutritional status and mental health symptoms.  And while there are no negative side effects of taking psychobiotics everyone’s microbiome is unique and finding the best product for you may require consultation with a naturopath and may require further investigation into your gut microbiome to get an accurate understanding of your bacteria status.  This testing can be ordered by your naturopath at Elemental Health.   

If you would like to know more about probiotics and your children’s gut health and wellbeing book a discovery call with Jean today